Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s all right. That’s not necessarily a big deal. Yes, this is true when it comes to MMO studios too. I cannot think of a single MMO studio that has not had at least one staggeringly bad idea, and usually those studios come back with a laugh, a shake of the head, and then move on to do things well, or at least continuing on with what the studio was doing before; that’s all right.
But then you get the people who keep trying to make fetch happen, a joke I made just last week about a particular studio that keeps trying to make spin-off projects that keep not working. And yet there are several studios like this, always trying new things and new projects that do not catch on. Many of them don’t even get to a playable state. So today, we want to look at the studios that keep trying to make new things happen that should really probably, uh… stop trying like this. Because whatever your motivation is, this just isn’t happening.
Change up who’s in charge or something. Your greenlighting process needs some reviews.
1. CCP Games
The EVE Online developer really wants a shooter set in this game’s universe. Did you know that? Probably; it’s been trying to make it happen for years and it keeps winding up with an assortment of failed projects – along with a failed push into VR, too. In other words, the studio seems to be dedicated to putting its money and effort into almost anything other than the one game it has actually succeeded with.
At a certain point it just becomes kind of sad. No one wants your other games, people. You have a captive audience who really likes your space spreadsheets. That’s what you do now. Accept it.
I’m annoyed at the powers that be that gave these chuckleheads a license to fail at making a Transformers game. But I’m also annoyed at Jagex itself for making such a bad game out of those rights. This is a company that manages to milk the heck out of RuneScape and then utterly flubs pretty much every other project. Maybe not the people to look to for exciting new game developments.
So, what do we want to focus on here? The games that get to a certain point in development like another mobile Warcraft game or Project Titan and then get canned while never seeing the light of day? Or titles like Heroes of the Storm that get released with all the fanfare of someone playing Ride of the Valkyries on a kazoo, get marketed hard toward an esports push that never materializes, and then get dropped once executives realize this isn’t going to be StarCraft as a massive competitive success? The answer is both.
4. Amazon Game Studios
Amazon’s game efforts feel absolutely like you’d expect for a sclerotic corporate behemoth thinking “how hard can game development be” followed by the prolonged second-act “apparently, very hard!” Seriously, this studio has cancelled project after project, several of them getting either to launch or near-launch, and honestly any group not bankrolled by Amazon would have been crushed two failures ago. I feel like at this point New World is kept afloat as much by the momentum of “let’s not admit failure on this one” as anything.
It never made sense to me personally that people would ever stan this studio, but in the wake of things like EverQuest Next and PlanetSide Arena, it makes even less sense. At one point, yes, you could justify the failed and half-finished projects as being a result of this particular studio casting a wide net and greenlighting lots of different things, but now it seems as if it’s a company kept alive by brand recognition and fond memories and no longer starts anything that has a snail’s chance on a salt flat.
6. Artcraft Entertainment
True story, I honestly really respected these folks for a long while. Crowfall felt like a scrappy little project, made on an unassuming budget with a good targeted audience and a real energy to it. I wanted it to be a success. Then it launched and wasn’t much of a success, and then… Artcraft dropped the project to entirely move on to something else, throwing its child away as someone else’s problem with all the enthusiasm of my mother waving at me as I went off to college.
Again, I’d like this to work out well. But I feel like lessons from the last experience were not learned here.
7. Carbine Studios
If it’s not clear, these aren’t gleeful “ha ha, look at the mistakes” entries here. The problem is that we’re talking about studios that in many cases wanted to branch out but never bothered to consider what made their original ideas resonant with people and don’t know how to make anything different. I really liked WildStar, or at least the parts of it that weren’t squandering its potential by making something too “hardcore” for anyone to enjoy as a tentpole of the game. There was a lot of potential in the game. And yet Carbine Studios basically saw that it wasn’t working, and rather than learn lessons from its design, it moved on to something totally different as a hopeful way to save the studio.
That never materialized, and it didn’t have to be this way. There was space to fix the original game, but that space was never explored. And now we’ve got nothing.
8. Paragon Studios
Oh, yeah, this one hurts me big time. You all know how much I loved City of Heroes. And I honestly have a hard time believing that the people who could make a new title out of the game all left when the studio spun off from Cryptic, but we do know that the studio had new irons in the fire and apparently didn’t get anything to a marketable state before the axe came down from NCsoft. Could the game have been good? We’ll never really know, and maybe the process of finding out came too late to really fix anything.
ArenaNet should really have something new and exciting in the tank after Guild Wars 2, and it seems clear that from the revitalization the title has gotten from End of Dragons that there is still real talent working at this studio that can produce a heck of a game. I’m not even saying that I don’t want more GW2. I’m saying that for whatever reason, it feels like this is a studio that can just keep playing its one hit, and thus far when it’s tried to make other projects it just… fails. It gets projects canned and layoffs. That’s honestly disappointing, especially when this feels like a team that could do more than that.
10. Kickstarted studios
An honorable mention to the folks behind Chronicles of Elyria, Camelot Unchained, Ashes of Creation, and probably others I can’t think of who decided to start making totally different games without having even finished the game that these studios were crowdfunded for in the first place. Seriously, that’s like starting out learning how to juggle and when you’re halfway through deciding you should learn how to ride a unicycle at the same time.
So not a great idea, basically.